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1. EP0583267 - APPLIQUE REFLECHISSANTE LAVABLE EN MACHINE

Note: Texte fondé sur des processus automatiques de reconnaissance optique de caractères. Seule la version PDF a une valeur juridique

[ EN ]
Description

Field of Invention



[0001]  The present invention relates to novel retroreflective appliques and articles to which such appliques have been applied.

Background



[0002]  In order to improve safety of pedestrians, joggers, workers on roadways, etc., retroreflective markings have been attached to clothing. In one common embodiment, retroreflective appliques comprising a monolayer of retroreflective elements, e.g., transparent microspheres with hemispheric reflectors, partially embedded in a layer of binder material, with adhesive backings are bonded to articles of clothing.

[0003]  Typically, the binder materials in such appliques comprise thermally or chemically cured compositions, e.g., phenolic cured resins, isocyanate cured polymers with active hydrogens such as two part urethanes, and aminoplast- or amine-cured hydroxy functional polymers. A problem with such appliques is that their retroreflective performance tends to diminish unacceptably when the garment to which they are bonded is washed. After a few washings, the retroreflective brightness of the applique may be reduced to a small fraction, e.g., 5 percent or less, of its original brightness. This decrease is due to loss of retroreflective elements from the surface of the applique and/or degradation of the retroreflective elements, e.g., corrosion of aluminum hemispheric reflectors, during washing.

[0004]  The problem is particularly troublesome when the clothing is subjected to industrial laundering, where the conditions of laundering are often more severe than conventional home laundering. For instance, in an industrial laundry, the laundering conditions may include wash temperatures of 40° to 90°C (105° to 190°F) and pH of 10 to 12.5, whereas in contrast, typical conditions for home laundering may include temperatures of 4° to 60°C (40° to 140°F) and pH of less than 11. Also, home laundering equipment typically subjects the articles being cleaned to less rigorous handling and stress than does industrial laundry equipment.

[0005]  Thus in EP-A-389,114, EP-A-372,727, US-A-4,025,159 and EP-A-200,521 there are disclosed sheeting materials which can be applied to substrates in which retroreflective elements are partially embedded in binder layers which can be E-beam cured polymer systems. There is no suggestion of the specific electron-beam cured elastomers recited below for use in appliques for application to garments.

[0006]  The present invention provides novel retroreflective appliques which can be applied to substrates such as fabrics and garments to impart retroreflective properties thereto. The appliques of the invention provide unexpected durability. Capable of being applied to fabric substrates, appliques of the invention exhibit surprising resistance to degradation when the article is laundered and retain a surprising degree of retroreflective properties.

[0007]  According to the present invention there is provided a retroreflective applique applied to a garment which applique comprises a monolayer of retroreflective elements partially embedded in and protruding from the front surface of a binder layer which binder layer comprises an electron-beam cured elastomer characterised in that the elastomer is selected from at least one of chlorosulfonated polyethylene, ethylene copolymers and EPDM polymers.

[0008]  The appliques of the invention can have an optional layer of adhesive, preferably hot melt type, on the near surface of the binder layer. Before use this adhesive layer can optionally be covered with a removable release liner. In some embodiments, the applique is bonded to a substrate, e.g., a piece of fabric or article of clothing, with the adhesive, and in other embodiments the binder layer serves to both secure the retroreflective elements and to bond the applique to a desired substrate. If desired, the applique can be sewn onto a fabric substrate. It is an important distinction from previously known retroreflective appliques, the binder layer of appliques of the invention comprises an elastomeric composition crosslinked or cured by electron beam ("e-beam") radiation and that said elastomer comprises one of the above specified elastomers.

[0009]  Retroreflective appliques of the invention have been found to exhibit surprising retention of retroreflective brightness when subjected to industrial laundering conditions. This advantageous result is achieved through a combination of increased resistance to loss of retroreflective elements and an increased resistance to degradation of the retroreflective elements, e.g., degradation of the reflector layer. As a result, articles to which appliques of the invention have been applied may be laundered many more times than previously possible while still retaining the desired retroreflective character.

Brief Description of Drawing



[0010]  The invention will be further explained with reference to the drawing, wherein:

Figure 1 is cross-sectional illustration of a portion of an illustrative embodiment of a retroreflective applique of the invention; and

Figure 2 is cross-sectional illustration of a portion of another illustrative embodiment of a retroreflective applique of the invention bonded to a substrate.



[0011]  These figures, which are idealized, are not to scale and are intended to be merely illustrative and non-limiting.

Detailed Description of Illustrative Embodiments



[0012]  Reference is made to Figure 1 wherein is shown an illustrative embodiment of retroreflective applique 10 of the invention. Applique 10 comprises a monolayer of retroreflective elements 12 partially embedded in and protruding from front surface 14 of binder layer 16. Disposed on rear surface 18 of binder layer 16 is optional adhesive layer 20. Applique 10 is shown with optional release liner 22 which covers the exposed surface of adhesive layer 20. To apply applique 10 to a substrate such as a fabric (not shown), release liner 22 is first removed. Applique 10 is also shown on optional temporary carrier 8 comprising paper sheet 4 and polymer lining 6.

[0013]  In brief summary, a typical method of making appliques of the invention comprises arranging retroreflective elements in desired monolayer arrangement on a temporary carrier with the rear portions of the retroreflective elements presented away from the carrier, forming a binder layer over the rear portions of the retroreflective elements, and applying an optional adhesive layer on the back side of the binder layer.

[0014]  The most typical form of retroreflective elements 12 will be spherical microspheres 24 having reflectors 26 on the back sides thereof as shown in Figure 1. As known to those skilled in the art, one method for assembling a monolayer of such retroreflective elements is to cascade microspheres onto temporary carrier 8 which secures microspheres 24 in desired arrangement temporarily. For instance, microspheres 24 can be partially embedded in heat softenable polymer layer 6 on paper sheet 4. Some examples of useful polymer coatings include polyvinyl chloride, polysulfones, polyalkylenes such as polyethylene, polypropylene, and polybutylene, polyesters such as polyethylene terephthalate, and the like. Upon cooling, polymer layer 6 retains microspheres 24 in desired arrangement. Depending in part upon the characteristics of carrier 8 and elements 12, it may be desired to condition carrier 8 and/or elements 12 to achieve desired release properties. For instance, selected release agents or adhesion promoters may be used.

[0015]  Microspheres 24 are typically preferably packed as closely as possible, ideally in their closest hexagonal arrangement, to achieve greater retroreflective brightness and may be so arranged by any convenient applique process, such as printing, screening, cascading, or with a hot can roll.

[0016]  The most typical kind of retroreflective elements are transparent microspheres having reflectors on the rear surfaces thereof as shown in Figure 1. Such retroreflective elements typically provide satisfactory levels of retroreflective brightness over a wide range of incidence angles, i.e., the angles at which the light strikes the sheeting, a property sometimes referred to as "angularity".

[0017]  If transparent microspheres are used, the microspheres are preferably substantially spherical in shape in order to provide the most uniform and efficient retroreflection. Furthermore, the microspheres are preferably substantially transparent so as to minimize the amount of light absorbed by the microspheres and thereby optimize the amount of light which is retroreflected by sheetings of the invention. The microspheres are typically substantially colorless, but, may be colored to produce special effects if desired.

[0018]  Microspheres used herein may be made from glass or synthetic resin having the optical properties and physical characteristics taught herein. Glass microspheres are typically preferred because they typically cost less, are harder, and exhibit superior durability to microspheres made of synthetic resins.

[0019]  Microspheres used in the present invention will typically have an average diameter of between about 30 and about 200 microns. Microspheres which are smaller than this range may tend to provide lower levels of retroreflection because of diffraction effects, whereas microspheres larger than this range may tend to impart undesirably rough texture to the applique or undesirably reduce the flexibility thereof. Microspheres used in the present invention will typically have a refractive index of between about 1.7 and about 2.0, the range typically considered to be useful in microsphere-based retroreflective products where, as here, the front surfaces of the microspheres are exposed or air-incident.

[0020]  As mentioned above, microsphere-based retroreflective elements of retroreflective appliques of the invention have reflectors on the rear surfaces thereof. Typically, such reflectors are applied to the rear surfaces of the microspheres after the microspheres have been partially embedded in the carrier, thereby facilitating the arrangement of the microspheres in substantially uniform direction for retroreflection. Furthermore, as is known, the size of reflectors, i.e., how much of the surface of the microspheres which is covered, may be controlled in part by controlling the depth into the carrier to which the microspheres are embedded prior to application of the reflectors thereto.

[0021]  Among the variety of materials which may be used as reflectors are vacuum-deposited or vapor-coated metal coatings, such as aluminum or silver; chemically-deposited metal coatings, such as silver; metal-coated plastic films; metal flakes; such as aluminum or silver; and dielectric coatings. Aluminum or silver coatings are typically preferred, because they tend to provide the highest retroreflective brightness. The reflective color of silver coatings is typically preferred to that of aluminum coatings, but an aluminum vapor coat is normally more preferred, because silver reflective coatings typically suffer more severe degradation in outdoor exposure than do aluminum coatings. U.S. Patent No. 3,700,305 (Bingham) discloses dielectric mirrors or coatings that may be used as reflectors in retroreflective articles of the invention.

[0022]  An advantage of dielectric reflectors is that appliques made with microspheres having such reflectors may be easily made in a variety of bright colors. Such reflectors are typically subject to degradation under laundering conditions, particularly industrial laundering conditions, and are accordingly used on articles destined for home laundering. Aluminum and silver reflectors typically exhibit substantially greater durability under industrial laundering conditions, but aluminum reflectors often tend to impart a gray color to the applique under ambient conditions.

[0023]  Following arrangement of reflective elements 12, a composition forming binder layer 16 is applied thereover. Binder layer 16 is typically between about 50 and about 250 microns (2 and 10 mils) thick over the embedded portion of retroreflective elements 12, with thicknesses of between about 75 and about 100 microns (3 and 4 mils) typically being preferred. It will be understood that binder layers having thicknesses outside these ranges may be used. However, if binder layer 16 is too thin, it will not provide sufficient support to retroreflective elements 12 which will may be readily dislodged, whereas increasing the thickness of binder layer 16 leads to increased cost for applique 10 as greater amounts of the binder material are required. Furthermore, at greater thicknesses, greater e-beam dosages will be required to achieve suitable curing and the flexibility of applique 10 typically tends to decrease.

[0024]  Binder layer 16 consists essentially of the binder materials, i.e., e-beam curable elastomers, discussed herein with the additives discussed below. One useful example of such compositions is the HYPALON series of polymers, a series of chlorosulphonated polyesters from E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. ("du Pont"). Such materials are highly flexible, and have been found to be resistant to degradation by exposure to ozone, oxygen, weathering, oil, and many chemicals as well as harsh laundering conditions.

[0025]  Such binder materials offer improved performance as compared to that of binder materials used in previously known retroreflective appliques. For instance, phenolic-cured nitrile rubbers have been found to be sensitive to high temperature and high pH, resulting in discoloration and loss of retroreflective brightness. The presence of the phenolic functionalities is believed to make such binder layers susceptible to undesirable degradation. Two component urethanes have been found to be sensitive to degradation upon exposure to high moisture as well as high temperature and high pH wash conditions. The urethane linkages are believed to make such binder layers susceptible to undesirable degradation. Such materials are also typically relatively expensive. Moisture-cured one component urethanes suffer similar drawbacks and in addition are slow and difficult to cure controllably. If overcured, such binder layers tend to become insufficiently flexible and subject to loss of retroreflective elements when flexed.

[0026]  The binder layer comprises one or more elastomers and typically one or more crosslinkers and one or more coupling agents. If desired, it may also comprise such optional additives as colorants (e.g., pigments, dyes, metal flakes) and stabilizers (e.g., thermal stabilizers and antioxidants such as hindered phenols and light stabilizers such as hindered amines or ultraviolet stabilizers), flame retardants, and flow modifiers (e.g., surfactants such as fluoropolymer silicones). Preferred colorants for appliques with reflective elements having aluminum reflector layers are black dyes, e.g., metal-azo dyes such as chromium-azo dyes.

[0027]  Elastomers which may be used herein are e-beam curable. Illustrative examples thereof include chlorosulfonated polyethylenes (e.g., du Pont's HYPALON series), ethylene copolymers such as ethylene/vinylacetate, ethylene/acrylate, ethylene/ acrylic acid, and poly(ethylene-co-propylene-co-diene) ("EPDM") polymers.

[0028]  Some elastomers tend to be degraded by e-beam irradiation rather than crosslinked. For instance, polyisobutylene, butyl rubber (e.g., isoprene/ isobutylene copolymer), and neoprenes (e.g., polychloroprene) are typically not useful herein. The binder layer is preferably substantially free of these components.

[0029]  Illustrative examples of crosslinkers which may be used herein include multifunctional monomers and oligomers such as trimethylolpropanetrimethacrylate, pentaerythritol-triacrylate, and triallyl-1,3,5-triazine- 2,4,6(1H,3H,5H)trione. Illustrative examples of other useful crosslinkers include 1,6-hexanediol diacrylate, tetraethylene glycol diacrylate, neopentylglycol diacrylate, tripropylene glycol diacrylate, trimethylolpropane ethoxy triacrylate, tris(2-hydroxethyl) isocyanurate triacrylate, dipentaerythritol pentaacrylate, urethane acrylate oligomers (e.g., CN970 series from Sartomer Co. and EBERCRYL from Radcure Specialties, Inc.), epoxy acrylate oligomers, and acrylic oligomers.

[0030]  Crosslinkers may be used alone or in combination of one or more. Typically, the binder layer will contain up to about 10 weight percent, and preferably between about 0.5 and about 2 weight percent, of crosslinker. If too much crosslinker is used, the resultant binder layer may tend to be insufficiently flexible. Also, because many crosslinkers tend to be susceptible to degradation due to water and high pH, binder layers made with excessive amounts may tend to suffer impaired launderability. If too little crosslinker is used, the resultant binder layer may not be cured sufficiently and thus be subject to degradation, e.g., swelling and retroreflective element loss, under laundering conditions, or require high e-beam dosage to achieve sufficient cure. Typically, it is preferred that the binder layer be sufficiently cured so as to withstand immersion at room temperature for 24 hours in methylene chloride without dissolving or breaking apart. Acceptable binder layers may swell in this test so long as they do not dissolve or break apart. It will be understood that use of higher e-beam dosages to achieve sufficient curing will typically incur greater processing costs and perhaps slower manufacturing speeds. Also, higher e-beam dosages may lead to degradation of some components of the construction.

[0031]  Typically, binder layer 16 will comprise a coupling agent, e.g., silane coupling agent, to promote adhesion of binder layer 16 to retroreflective elements 12. Selection of a coupling agent will be based in part upon the particular elastomer, crosslinker (if any), and retroreflective elements which are used. Illustrative examples of coupling agents include vinyltrimethoxysilane, vinyltriethoxysilane, gamma-methacryloxypropyl-tris-(2-methoxyethoxy)silane, gamma-methacryloxypropyltrimethoxysilane, beta-(3,4-epoxycyclohexy)ethyltrimethoxysilane, gamma-glycidoxypropyltrimethoxysilane, gamma-mercaptopropyltriethoxysilane, gamma-mercaptopropyltrimethoxysilane, gamma-aminopropyltriethoxysilane, and N-beta-(aminoethyl)-gamma-aminopropyltrimethoxysilane. These may be used singly or in combination. It will be understood that selection of coupling agent(s), if used, will be dependent in part upon the binder material and retroreflective elements used. To minimize fading of aluminum reflector layers, it is typically preferred that amino-containing silane coupling agents be avoided. Gamma-glycidoxypropyltrimethoxysilane, gamma-mercaptopropyltrimethoxysilane, and gamma-methacryloxypropyltrimethoxysilane have been found to exhibit the best performance among those listed and are preferred.

[0032]  The coupling agent may be applied, e.g., by spraying or coating, to the surfaces of the retroreflective elements or to the binder layer prior to its application to the elements or may be incorporated directly into the binder composition. Application to the elements provides the advantage of using lesser quantities of coupling agent, which in some instances is relatively expensive, whereas incorporation into the binder composition provides the advantage of eliminating a separate application process curing fabrication of the retroreflective applique.

[0033]  Typically, binder layer 16 will contain up to about 10 weight percent, and preferably between about 0.1 and about 7 weight percent, of coupling agent. If too little coupling agent is used, the resultant applique may, depending upon the characteristics of the elastomer, tend to under undesirable loss of retroreflective elements. If too much coupling agent is used, it may in some instances impair the physical properties of the binder layer, e.g., mercapto-based agents may cause the binder to swell. Also, the coupling agents are typically relatively expensive as compared to the other components of the appliques.

Examples



[0034]  The invention will be further explained by the following illustrative examples which are intended to be non-limiting. Unless otherwise indicated, all amounts are expressed in parts by weight.

[0035]  Unless otherwise indicated, the following test methods were used.

Retroreflective Brightness



[0036]  Retroreflective brightness was measured using a retroluminometer as described in U.S. defensive publication T987,003 at divergence angles of about 0.2° and entrances angles of about -4°.

Laundering



[0037]  Launderability of appliques was evaluated by washing a piece of fabric to which the subject applique had been applied for the indicated number of cycles in a Milnor System 7 Washing Machine Model 30015M4G from Pellerin Minor Corp. using program no. 5 for medium soiled, colored fabric with the indicated detergent. Each cycle is about 40 minutes in length. The washer was loaded with about 5.5 to 6.8 kilograms (12 to 15 pounds) (dry) of laundry and used about 68 liters (18 gallons) of water at the indicated temperature.

[0038]  The detergent used was 30 grams of FACTOR detergent, a detergent from Fabrilife Chemicals, Inc. containing tetrasodium pyrophosphate, nonylphenoxypoly(ethyleneoxy)ethanol, sodium carbonate, and silica. In some cases, the detergent further included 60 grams of ULTRASIL , a pH builder from Pennwalt Corp. believed to contain 40 weight percent NaOH and 60 weight percent sodium metasilicates.

Example 1



[0039]  Glass microspheres having an average diameter of about 40 to 90 microns were partially embedded into a temporary carrier sheet and aluminum specular reflective layers applied to the exposed portions of the microspheres to yield retroreflective elements.

[0040]  A binder composition comprising:
Amount Component
100 Elastomer - 35 weight percent solution of HYPALON 20 in methyl ethyl ketone with about 0.045 weight percent of ZAPON X50, black dye from BASF Corp.;
2.1 Coupling Agent - A-189, a gamma-mercaptopropyltrimethoxysilane from Union Carbide Corp.; and
0.35 Crosslinker - trimethylolpropanetrimethacrylate having molecular weight of 338.4 from Aldrich Chemical Co.;
coated over the retroreflective elements to a wet thickness of about 300 microns (12 mils) and dried at about 66°C (150°F) for 30 minutes. The dried coating was then e-beam irradiated to an exposure of 3 or 5 Mrads at 200 kilovolts to yield the binder layer. An Mrad is a megarad where a rad or "radiation absorbed dose" is equal to 1.0 x 10 -5 joules/gram.

[0041]  An adhesive layer comprising (1) 100 parts of a 40 percent solids solution of a polyol having a hydroxy equivalent of 3000 in methyl ethyl ketone and (2) 6.5 parts of DESMODUR CB-75, a 75 percent solids solution of an aromatic polyisocyanate adduct based on toluene diisocyanate in ethyl acetate from Mobay Corp., was then coated over the rear side of the binder layer to a wet thickness of about 300 microns (12 mils).

[0042]  The resultant retroreflective applique was then wet laminated to a polyester fabric (S-551-060 from Milliken & Company, a 3.11 ounce/yard 2 textile polyester) and the construction dried and cured at 65°C (150°F) for 30 minutes. The temporary carrier was then stripped from the front of the applique to reveal the silver colored retroreflective surface.

[0043]  Launderability of the appliques was evaluated by washing for the indicated number of cycles at a water temperature of about 83°C (180°F). The appliques had initial retroreflective brightnesses in candelas per square meter per lux ("cpl") of about 605, 570, 600, and 615, respectively. The launderability results obtained are tabulated in Table I.





[0044]  These results illustrate the superior launderability of retroreflective appliques of the invention as compared to conventional appliques made with thermo-chemically cured binder layers.

Example 2



[0045]  Two different crosslinkers are examined in Example 2. Except as noted below, retroreflective appliques were made as in Example 1. In Sample 2-1 the crosslinker was 0.35 parts of trimethylolpropanetrimethacrylate, and in Sample 2-2 the crosslinker was 0.35 parts of pentaerythritoltriacrylate. In both cases, the binder composition was coated to a wet thickness of 250 microns (10 mils), oven dried at 65°C (150°F) for 10 minutes, covered with a 25 micron (1 mil) thick silicone coated polyethylene terephthalate film, and exposed to 5 Mrads at 200 kilovolts through the film.

[0046]  After the film was removed, an adhesive composition comprising (1) 100 parts of a 50 percent solids solution of linear saturated polyester in methyl ethyl ketone and toluene and (2) 2.4 parts of DESMODUR CB-75 was applied. The applique was then wet laminated to a polyester fabric as in Example 1.

[0047]  After the temporary carrier was removed from the front of the appliques, the appliques were allowed to sit at room ambient conditions for 1 month. The launderability of the samples was then evaluated using by washing as in Example 1 for the indicated number of cycles using water having a temperature of about 75°C (165°F). The appliques had initial retroreflective brightnesses (in cpl) of about 615 and 620, respectively. The launderability results obtained are tabulated in Table II.
Table II
Sample Cycles1 Brightness2
2-1 0 100
  5 39
  10 11
  15 4
  20 1.6
 
2-2 0 100
  5 64
  10 41
  15 27
  20 16
1 Number of wash cycles completed.
2 Percentage of its initial retroreflective brightness that indicated sample retained after indicated number of wash cycles.

Example 3



[0048]  A monolayer of retroreflective elements was prepared as in Example 1.

[0049]  A binder composition comprising a solution in toluene of (1) 26.7 weight percent of elastomer, KRATON D1320X, and (2) 1.6 weight percent of coupling agent, A-189 was coated over the retroreflective elements to a wet thickness of about 300 microns (12 mils) and dried at about 65°C (150°F) for 30 minutes. The dried coating was then e-beam irradiated to exposures of 0, 3, or 5 Mrads at 200 kilovolts as indicated to yield the binder layer.

[0050]  An adhesive layer comprising (1) 100 parts of a 40 percent solids solution in methyl ethyl ketone of polyol having an hydroxy equivalent of 3000 and (2) 8.6 parts of DESMODUR CB-75 was then coated over the rear side of the binder layer to 150 microns (6 mils) wet thickness.

[0051]  The resultant retroreflective applique was then wet laminated to a PRIMALUX fabric (an 80/20 blend of polyester and combed cotton, weight 3 ounce/yard 2) from Springs Industries, Inc. The construction was dried and cured at 65°C (150°F) for 30 minutes. The temporary carrier was then stripped from the front of the applique to reveal the silver colored retroreflective surface.

[0052]  Launderability of the applique was evaluated by washing for the indicated number of cycles at a water temperature of about 74°C (165°F). The appliques had initial retroreflective brightnesses (in cpl) of about 660, 645, and 650, respectively. The launderability results obtained are tabulated in Table III.




Example 4



[0053]  A monolayer of retroreflective elements was prepared as in Example 1.

[0054]  A binder composition comprising:
Amount Component
100 Elastomer - solution in methyl ethyl ketone of 35 weight percent percent HYPALON 20 and 0.045 weight percent ZAPON X50;
2.1 Coupling Agent - A-189;
0.35 Crosslinker - trimethylolpropanetrimethacrylate;
was coated over the retroreflective elements to a wet thickness of about 375 microns (15 mils). Appliques were then wet laminated to PRIMALUX fabric like that used in Example 3, referred to as Sample 4-1, or S-551-060 fabric like that used in Example 1, referred to as Sample 4-2 and dried at about 65°C (150°F) for 30 minutes. The dried composites were then e-beam irradiated to an exposure of 7 or 10 Mrads at 300 kilovolts through the fabrics to yield the binder layers bonded to the respective fabric substrate.

[0055]  The temporary carriers were then stripped from the front of the appliques to reveal the retroreflective surfaces which each provided a brightness of about 600 candela per square meter per lux.

[0056]  Launderability of the appliques was evaluated by washing for five cycles with water at a temperature of about 82°C (180°F).

[0057]  Sample 4-1 had an initial retroreflective brightness of about 625 candela per square meter per lux and a final retroreflective brightness of about 270 candela per square meter per lux. Sample 4-2 had an initial retroreflective brightness of about 620 candela per square meter per lux and a final retroreflective brightness of about 300 candela per square meter per lux.
Sample 4-2 was observed to have retained a somewhat greater degree of its retroreflective brightness than did Sample 4-1. This is believed to be due to the fact that S-551-060 fabric is somewhat stiffer than is PRIMALUX fabric.

Comparative Example A



[0058]  An array of retroreflective elements on a temporary carrier was prepared as in Example 1.

[0059]  A binder composition comprising:
Amount Component
100 Binder Material - 45 weight percent solids emulsion in water of non-ionic acrylic emulsion, RHOPLEX HA-8 from Rohm & Haas;
2 Binder Material - 80 weight percent aqueous solution of melamine-formaldehyde resin; and
2 Coupling Agent - Z-6040 from Dow Corning Corp.;
was coated over the retroreflective elements to a wet thickness of about 150 microns (6 mils) and dried and cured at 82°C (180°F) for 7 minutes to yield the binder layer.

[0060]  A layer of the same composition except further containing 0.2 parts carbon black and 3.0 parts titanium dioxide was coated over the back side of the binder layer to a wet thickness of about 175 microns (7 mils).

[0061]  The applique was then wet laminated to a polyester/cotton blend, POTENTIA a 3.0 ounce/yard 2 65/35 blend of polyester and combed cotton from Springs Industries, Inc. and the laminate dried and cured at 110°C (230°F) for 7 minutes.

[0062]  The temporary carrier was then stripped from the front of the applique to reveal the silver colored retroreflective surface. The initial retroreflective brightness was about 605 candela per square meter per lux.

Comparative Example B



[0063]  An array of retroreflective elements on a temporary carrier was prepared as in Example 1.

[0064]  A binder composition comprising:
Amount Component
100 Binder Material - 20.5 weight percent solids solution in methyl ethyl ketone of nitrile rubber;
13.7 Binder Material - thermosetting phenolic resin;
4.1 Binder Material - dioctyl phthalate plasticizer;
2 Coupling Agent - A-189; and
2 Colorant - dispersion of carbon black and titanium dioxide;
was coated over the retroreflective elements to a wet thickness of about 150 microns (6 mils) and dried and cured at 77°C (170°F) for 3 minutes and then 154°C (310°F) for 4 minutes to yield the binder layer.

[0065]  An adhesive composition comprising: (1) 100 parts of BOSTIK TM 7660, a 30 weight percent solids solution in methyl ethyl ketone of a polyester diol from Emhart Corp. and (2) 4 parts of BOSCODUR No. 22, a 66 weight percent solids solution in ethyl acetate and toluene (1:1) of a polyisocyanate from Emhart Corp., was coated over the back side of the binder layer to a wet thickness of 175 microns (7 mils).

[0066]  The applique was then wet laminated to a fabric as in Example 1 and the temporary carrier stripped from the front of the applique to reveal the silver colored retroreflective surface. The initial retroreflective brightness was about 560 candela per square meter per lux.

Comparative Example C



[0067]  In this Comparative Example, a piece of REFLITE Retroreflective Fabric from Nippon Reflite Industry Company of Uji-City, Japan was evaluated. The material comprises a monolayer of aluminum-coated microspheres partially embedded in a binder layer which is believed to comprise a urethane binder material.

[0068]  The fabric had an initial retroreflective brightness of about 630 candela per square meter per lux. The launderability results obtained with the appliques of Example 1 and Comparative Examples A, B, and C are tabulated in Table IV.

[0069]  As reported above, the initial retroreflective brightness of Sample 1 was about 605 candela per square meter per lux.





[0070]  These results illustrate the superior launderability of retroreflective appliques of the invention as compared to conventional appliques made with thermo-chemically cured binder layers.

[0071]  Various modifications and alterations of this invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of this invention.